Little Tree's grandparents are loving and caring, having Little Tree's best interests at heart. They not only give him a formal education, they also teach him "The Way" of the Cherokee, the history and philosophy of the Cherokee people, and the spiritual beauty of their lives. Little Tree is taught the importance of establishing and maintaining a respectful relationship with nature and how to commune with the different elements in nature.
The people who run the orphanage view the Cherokee as heathens, treating them with cruelty. They try to take away everything that means anything to the Native Americans. The white people denigrate the ways of the Cherokee, trying to make them feel ashamed of who they are and what they believe. The people at the orphanage don't even try to understand what it must feel like for the children to be placed into a situation that totally goes against everything that they have been taught. Instead of a loving, caring atmosphere, the orphanage is one of fear and brutality.